Monday, December 19, 2005

First Day of Business Trip 

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, the trip to Florida got off to a less than auspicious beginning.

It started with the allergy prescription - took the last Allegra yesterday, so I called a refill in while we were en route to Ikea for Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, we missed the pharmacy closing by five minutes upon our return, and they didn't open until 8:00 this morning. My flight was scheduled for 9:55, so it didn't seem like a good idea to be at Walgreen's at 8:00 and try to make it to Logan on the T in time to check my bag, etc. So I grabbed some Sudafed from the medicine cabinet and off I went.

By the way, anyone taking the T to Logan? Use the newly enacted SL1 Silver Line route rather than the old Blue Line to Airport Station followed by the shuttle bus. The Silver Line goes around to all the terminals and drops you off right there. Much better than the schlepping.

Anyway, I had printed out my boarding passes at home, so I curbside checked the garment bag and went in to wait in the security line. I did set it off once, but apparently it was because I came into too close proximity to the walls of the detector, because it didn't go off the second time and that's the explanation the TSA guy gave me. Once through that checkpoint, I headed to Starbucks to arm myself with a grande decaf nonfat latte and headed to the gate. All seemed to be going well until we were on the plane.

There was a guy causing some sort of ruckus because he wanted to sit in a seat other than the one he was assigned, and he was trying to negotiate the the holder of that seat and those around it. I took my window seat. The guy in the aisle seat was fairly small, well-dressed and reading a magazine quietly. Good companion. Sadly, Loud Guy eventually gave up and took his assigned seat, which was of course the middle seat in our row. Paint-splattered rust-colored jeans, some sort of boots, leather biker jacket, smelling of cigarettes and diesel fumes or something. Also a real space taker, physically and sonically. And very attached to his cell phone.

This cell phone obsession wouldn't have been bad if we had taken off on time, since cell phone use is banned once we leave the gate. But this was not to be. Our 9:55 flight took off around 11:30, after the maintenance guys cleared our lower level fire extinguishers as being fully loaded even though the pilot's gauge wasn't working properly. I got to learn way more about Loud Guy than I ever wanted to know about just about anyone. At one point the flight attendant had to tell him to put it in check as he was making the other passengers nervous with his loud joking about what good will a fire extinguisher on the bottom of the plane do if we're on fire in the cabin, and other such pleasantries. He also kept complaining that he couldn't hear the pilot's announcements and making the flight attendants come over and fill him in. Well maybe if he'd shut the hell up he could have heard it.

So here's Loud Guy, calling his sponsor and all his AA buddies (he wasn't keeping himself very anonymous), handing out advice about when you're feeling down you should just read a few lines from the book and think about them for five minutes before going back to worrying about daily shit, if you still feel like worrying about it, and on and on and on. There was also some discussion about whether the current catch phrase is "Fake it 'til you make it" or "If you're trying, you're lying," and how he really doesn't get either one.

Just how much he doesn't get it became apparent during the flight, when he had two scotch and Cokes. It became really clear when the flight attendant brought the second tiny bottle and a glass of Coke and he complained because the glass had too much Coke in it. He had the scotch bottle - he was going to get the same amount of alcohol either way. But she kindly dumped half of it out for him. Prior to pouring the first one he turned and asked if I minded if he drank, since he's not driving. I said no, but refrained from adding, "but your sponsor might have an issue with it..." His choice. I just wish I didn't have to smell his booze breath for the rest of the flight.

He tried a couple of times to engage me in conversation, but I anticipated that giving him an inch would result in listening to him be alternatingly gregarious and supposedly insightful all the way to Atlanta, so I monosyllable-responsed him and he turned his attention to Quiet Magazine Guy, who was unsuccessful and proved me correct.

This was after he spent a while during the flight playing with his cell phone ring tones, most of which involved very loud electronic symphies, christmas carols and such. Really fun. His several trips to the lavatory were welcome breaks, to all of us in the general area.

We didn't get to Atlanta until 10 minutes after our connecting flight was scheduled to have departed, so we checked with rebooking and they had already booked my work colleague and me on a flight a couple of hours later. The next flight was much better, with larger, more comfy seats, a two-seat row and a seatmate who was thin and slept the entire way. Peace at last.

When we checked in at the gate for our new seat assignments, the ticket lady noted that they had put me in first class, "I guess that's all they had. But we've got something in coach now, so I'll put you there." And she said it like she was doing me a favor. Gee thanks. I'd hate to have to sit in first class. I'm much more comfortable back in cattle with my own kind.

So now I'm in my hotel room with a lovely view of the parking lot construction, unable to connect to my office VPN and e-mail, unable to reach The Girl on the phone, waiting for my colleague (she's the lead project manager, I'm her lacky) to call and let me know she's ready to get some dinner. She said it would be a few minutes, but that was almost an hour ago.

More tales from Cocoa Beach tomorrow, after an all day client site visit. It's killing me that I can't go tour the Kennedy Space Center. They're open from 9 am to dusk, but we got here after dusk, will be on site all daylight hours tomorrow, and my flight leaves around 9:00 on Wednesday morning. The ultimate geek frustration. So close, I can almost touch it!!!!!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:17 PM